Category Archives: International Netball Roadshow

Fast5: Netballs answer to twenty20 cricket?

International Netball Roadshow at Berkhamstead

Twenty20 has had an enormous impact on the game of cricket, sparking international interest in this new, shorter format and seeing a revival in popularity like never before. The main differences between Twenty20 and regular cricket are the length of the game – two and a half hours with an average innings of around 75 minutes – shorter boundaries and a generally much faster pace, which has led some to criticise Twenty20 as a less technical game. However, the reality is that this new format makes the game much more accessible and requires considerable skill to achieve results in less time. If any validation of Twenty20’s popularity was needed, then the enormous numbers of supporters who regularly pass through the turnstiles is it.

Where Twenty20 has revolutionised the game of cricket, Fast5 is looking to do the same for netball. With just five players on the court, as opposed to seven in a traditional game, each quarter lasting six minutes rather than 15, and rolling substitutions as you might expect to see in basketball, Fast5 is a much quicker game than traditional netball. It is also a much more demanding prospect with multiple points available for certain goals – for example ‘Power Plays,’ where each team can choose one quarter of the game in which all their goals are worth double points.

Inevitably, Fast5 will come in for the same criticisms as Twenty20– i.e. that it is not as technically demanding as the old game. However, Fast5 makes the game accessible in the same way as Twenty20 does for cricket, which is likely to improve participation at grass roots level, as well as at the top of the sport. And with the speed of the game comes a whole new set of demands, from having to think under pressure, move quickly to keep up with the game, make tactical choices at speed, as well as the likelihood that with less players on the court, there will be more touches of the ball for each player, resulting in better participation.

In the same way as Twenty20 has, Fast5 could also have a significant impact on netball’s finances. Twenty20 makes money for the sport because of the crowds that it attracts – there is a greater sense of spectacle and drama and the time commitment is much less – and this of course attracts more sponsors. There is more money in ‘T20’ for the players too, which means that big names such as Kevin Pietersen have been attracted to the Twenty20 leagues.

For young netball fans keen to pick up some transferrable netball skills, the Activate Sport International Netball Roadshow is a great way to do it. With a combination of training drills and fun games it’s a great all round netball experience, whatever type of game you want to play.

Energy Foods to Eat before Exercise

Activate Sport Bowl of fruitEvery athlete and sports enthusiast knows that nutrition plays a key role in getting the most out of exercise. What we eat before we play a sport or take part in any exercise can have a big impact on what we get out of it, as well as on the kind of performance that we can achieve. Nutrition generally – as well as the kinds of fluids we consume – has a significant effect on the general health of those who regularly participate in sports and proper nourishment can help avoid issues such as tiredness, cramping muscles, mood swings and restless legs.

Ideally, for anyone involved in sports, a meal before and a meal after the session is going to provide the optimum nutrition. Carbohydrates provide pre-sport energy and maintain blood sugar levels, which means that muscles can perform properly, and protein is also crucial to a good session. Foods rich in B vitamins will help to boost muscle function and energy, and Vitamin C is an essential part of having a great game or workout. Pasta, cheese and salad are always considered a good balanced meal pre-sport, as the dish contains the 70% carbohydrates that athletes need to take on before getting active. Wholemeal bread is another good source of carbs – sandwiches with leafy greens, chicken or egg, or peanut butter can provide a good energy boost, as well as lean steamed salmon, brown rice and a selection of vegetables. Incorporating calcium rich snacks like cottage cheese on ryvita, spiced broccoli and tofu, and sardines on toast can help combat the bone stress of exercise.

Whilst these foods and snacks are a good idea for nutrition generally, some sports need a slightly more specific approach to food consumption pre-match, event or game. Endurance sports such as a marathon or long distance running, for example, require an athlete to maintain energy levels over a significant distance, so bread, cereal, bagels, low fat yoghurt and low fat cheese provide sustenance without being too heavy. For sports that tend to require short, sharp bursts of energy – such as sprinting – stocking up on energy drinks and water to keep hydrated is essential, as well as potassium rich foods such as bananas and sultanas that will help prevent muscle cramps. Finally, with team sports like rugby and football it’s best to avoid high fibre and wheat based foods, as these can cause bloating and sit heavy in the stomach during a time when you need to be active. Porridge, an omelette and salad or a jacket potato with tuna or salmon provide starchy carbs without too much fat intake.

Activate Sport offers some fantastic courses where these types of nutrition can be put to great effect, with academies and camps in everything from dance to rugby. See the website for more details and sign up today to avoid disappointment!

photo credit: Ani Carrington via photopin cc

Specialisation or Diversification – Which Route To Take? Part 1


The question of whether or not children should play a range of different sports when they are young, or whether they should specialise from an early age is one that often troubles parents. It is also a conundrum that has been hotly debated in the sporting world, with athletes, trainers, and industry experts often coming down on different sides. In the next two blogs we will be looking at the advantages and disadvantages of diversification (playing lots of sports) as compared to specification (choosing one sport and training for it year round from an early age).

To begin with, let’s take a look at diversification (or ‘sampling’ or ‘delayed specialisation’). As you might guess from the name, diversification is essentially where a child samples a wide range of sports when young, before selecting one on which to focus to achieve elite performance. The process usually takes at least a couple of years, during which a child will normally try a variety of sports, narrowing the choice down to two or three and then finally choosing the sport to specialise in at around the age of 15 or 16.

There is a considerable amount of research that indicates that diversification is often the method of choice for some of the world’s best athletes and that those who opt for this route actually spend less hours participating in the chosen main sport before being selected for a national team. So, what is it about diversification that makes it effective?

Playing a wider range of sports allows a child to develop a broader spectrum of physical skills, many of which are transferrable from one sport to another, such as the ability to quickly go from being motionless to sprinting, which is useful in athletics, as well as games like tennis. There are also likeness between the movements in many sports and some broadly similar concepts allow for transfer of learned skills – for example the set up of a football pitch where the idea is to get the ball into the opposing team’s net, and a hockey pitch where the aim is the same but using a stick. Skills such as passing, anticipating the movements of an opponent and looking for an opportunity to put an object into a goal, or over a net, are also common to a wide range of sports.

In addition to encouraging transferrable skills, diversification can maintain an interest in sport in general, avoiding early burning out or giving up, and there is evidence that acquiring a wide range of skills in this way may actually speed up elite performance of a single sport when it is selected. Then there are the general life benefits – qualities such as tenacity, endurance, mental agility and strength are key to any sport, as well as to living a successful life in general, and acquiring the ability to understand and play more than one sport can also build confidence.

In terms of the disadvantages of diversification, these tend to be few. Most of the evidence points to the fact that this approach doesn’t prevent elite performance in athletes, which only leaves the logistics of getting a child to numerous training sessions, sports practices and games, as well as the cost.

Tips for a Healthy Lunch Box

AS_Healthy-Lunch-blogIn a world dominated by the constant temptation of sugary snacks, fizzy drinks and supersized junk food it’s often hard to remember what a balanced diet should look like. When it comes to lunch boxes, getting this right is pretty key, as lunch has to provide fuel for the entire day, particularly an active and sport-filled one. But what do all the elements of a balanced diet look like?

Carbohydrates, found in pasta, bread and potatoes and grains such as barley and millet, provide essential energy and are also responsible for delivering fibre, iron and B vitamins to our bodies, all essential nutrients for functions like digestion. Fats in dairy products such as milk, olive oil, lean red meat and poultry are key to the absorption of certain nutrients. However, remember that consuming too much saturated fat such as that in cheese, cream, butter, sausages and cakes leads to high cholesterol and weight problems. The Minerals food group is where you can go crazy as fruit and vegetables make up the largest part of it and bring only good things like calcium for bone strength and iron for blood health to our daily diets. Protein is another essential element in the daily diet as it delivers growth and also enables the body to repair itself after an accident or injury. Lean meat and fish, eggs and dairy products are a good source of protein, as are beans and poultry.

Getting the balance of all these elements right in a packed lunch can be a challenge for any parent but a healthy, tasty lunchbox is by no means out of reach. Here are a few ideas on how to get it right:

Don’t underestimate the power of fruit and veg. We all know that most kids would prefer an ice cream to a carrot, but the bright colours, the crunchy, juicy textures and the fact that they can be grabbed by little hands make fruit and veg a great healthy lunch box tool.

Try to include two pieces of fruit a day – a box of raisins, some dried apricots, fresh strawberries, a sweet mini banana, tinned peaches or a fresh pineapple slice are all more interesting than the standard apple option.

You can make vegetables much more attractive by chopping them into batons and making them into dippers for hummus or salsa, or provide all the tools for dipper wraps – slow release carb wholemeal tortillas, veg such as celery, carrot, baby spinach, cucumber and red pepper – and let kids make their own wraps to dip. And don’t forget your ‘5-a-day’ is a MINIMUM recommendation, not a limit!

The ‘treat’ is essential – but it doesn’t have to be a high fat, sugary treat. Low fat fromage frais, a small handful of peanuts, salted popcorn, low fat custard or rice pudding can deliver an equally satisfying sweet hit without the energy low that can follow consumption of lots of sugar.

Opt for energy – particular if your kids are running around all day at a sports camp they need energy giving foods to keep them going. A tub of brown rice salad, cold wholewheat pasta in a rich tomato sauce, mini frittatas packed full of veg, pitta breads stuffed with lean proteins and grated vegetables, or bagels with fish such as salmon are an easy way to do it.

The combination of a fresh, balanced diet and plenty of exercise is a great way to make sure that our kids grow up healthy and happy and free from issues such as obesity and depression. Activate Sport runs an exciting series of summer sports camps that are perfectly suited to inspiring an active lifestyle – see our website for details of everything from dance to cricket camps, and more great healthy recipe ideas.

photo credit: chotda via photopin cc